British Relay Team Join the New Olympic Craze: Drop the Baton!
Craig Pickering and his team mates in the 4x100m men's relay bravely took the blame for the incredible bungle on the last leg, when he ran over the line in the baton exchange, thus gaining the team a disqualification. True, he did not actaully drop the thing, as did the hapless American women's team AND the men's team AND the French ladies. Pickering continued to run gamely to the finish line in silver medal position, but you could see by his eyes rolled up to heaven that he knew he'd blown it. There was a glimmer of hope, for the lines man had not raised a red flag and the hope was that although Pickering's legs and body were over the line, his outstretched back hand may not have been. All dreams were soon shattered and the team was clearly devastated as team captain Simeon Williamson hammered the point home rather tactlessly perhaps about how hard they had all trained, and trained... and trained... for all these years, just to be disqualified on a basic blunder. It was a wonder everybody was not in a heap of tears, rather than the wobbling chins and the sniffles.
Pickering slowed to a virtual standstill to receive the baton, before scampering to the line to finish second. It was all in vain. Within minutes, the team had been disqualified for an exchange that took place outside the designated area.
Devonish, the only surviving member of the victorious team from the Athens Games, tried to claim collective responsibility but Pickering quickly stepped forward to accept the blame.
He said: "It was my fault. I went too early. I let myself down, the team down and the country down."
It was not the first time British sprinters had squandered chances of medals in the relay. There were dropped batons at the Olympics in Atlanta and Sydney, as well as the World Championships in Edmonton.
But the latest foul-up came after UK Athletics had invested more than £500,000 in developing men and women's relay squads in the four years since Athens. The athletes have competed regularly and gathered for training sessions in Loughborough, Annecy and Geneva this summer. The pre-Olympic preparation camp in Macau featured almost military-like sessions of baton-changing, using the push-pass technique also favoured by the Americans.
What made things worse for the British athletes was the fact that the Americans also went out of the heats, and a medal was there for the taking.